Houston holds memorial for George Floyd

The last chance for the public to say goodbye to George Floyd drew thousands of mourners Monday to a church in his native Houston, as his death two weeks ago continues to stoke protests in America and beyond over racial injustice, and spurred France to abruptly halt the use of police chokeholds.

Watch the memorial here:

Under the searing Texas heat at The Fountain of Praise church, mourners wearing T-shirts with Floyd’s picture or the words “I Can’t Breathe” — the phrase he said repeatedly while pinned down by a Minneapolis police officer — waited for hours to see Floyd’s body, dressed in a brown suit in an open gold-colored casket. One man in line fainted, while others waiting sang “Lean on Me.”

Some knew Floyd in the nearby housing projects where he grew up. Others traveled for hours or drove in from other states. Those who couldn’t make it whipped up their own tributes: In Los Angeles, a funeral-style procession of cars inched through downtown as the viewing began in Houston. In Tennessee, residents of Memphis held a moment of silence.

Bracy Burnett approached Floyd’s casket wearing a homemade denim face mask scrawled with “8:46” — the length of time prosecutors say Floyd, who is black, was pinned to the ground under a white officer’s knee before he died.

“All black people are not criminals. All white people are not racists. All cops are not bad. And ignorance comes in all colors. That’s what I thought about when I viewed the body,” Burnett, 66, said.

Floyd’s death May 25 has inspired international protests and drawn new attention to the treatment of African Americans in the U.S. by police and the criminal justice system.

Hours into the viewing, a judge in Minneapolis kept bail at $1 million for Derek Chauvin, the police officer charged with second-degree murder in Floyd's death. Chauvin, 44, said almost nothing during the 11-minute hearing while appearing on closed-circuit television from a maximum-security prison.

Two weeks after Floyd’s death, the impact continued to resonate at home and abroad.

In Paris, France's top security official said police would no longer conduct chokeholds that have been blamed for multiple cases of asphyxiation and have come under renewed criticism after Floyd's death. And in Washington, Democrats in Congress proposed a sweeping overhaul of police oversight and procedures that would include a nationwide ban on chokeholds in a potentially far-reaching legislative response to the mass protests denouncing the deaths of black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was among the first to view the casket and planned to meet privately with the family. He wore a striped gold-and-crimson tie, the colors of Floyd’s Houston high school, where Floyd was a standout football player.

“George Floyd is going to change the arc of the future of the United States. George Floyd has not died in vain. His life will be a living legacy about the way that America and Texas responds to this tragedy,” Abbott said.

Floyd’s funeral will be Tuesday, followed by burial at the Houston Memorial Gardens cemetery in suburban Pearland, where he will be laid to rest next to his mother, Larcenia Floyd.

»MORE: Who was George Floyd?

Former Vice President Joe Biden was to travel to Houston to meet with Floyd’s family and will provide a video message for Floyd’s funeral. Previous memorials have taken place in Minneapolis and Raeford, North Carolina, near where Floyd was born.

Floyd died during a Memorial Day arrest while in custody of Minneapolis police.

Floyd died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped responding. His death has inspired international protests and drawn new attention to the treatment of African Americans by police and the criminal justice system.

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Biden expects to give the family his condolences, said the aide, who discussed Biden’s plans on condition of anonymity.

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Floyd moved to Minneapolis from his native Houston several years ago in hopes of finding work and starting a new life, said Christopher Harris, Floyd’s lifelong friend. But he lost his job as a bouncer at a restaurant when Minnesota’s governor issued a stay-at-home order.

An employee at a Minneapolis grocery store called police after Floyd allegedly tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.

In widely circulated cellphone video of the subsequent arrest, Floyd can be seen on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back while Chauvin presses him to the pavement with his knee on Floyd’s neck. The video shows Chauvin, who is white, holding down Floyd for minutes as Floyd complains he can’t breathe. The video ends with paramedics lifting a limp Floyd onto a stretcher and placing him in an ambulance.

Chauvin and three other officers were fired shortly after the incident.

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On June 3, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison upgraded charges for Chauvin from third-degree murder to second-degree murder, denoting that the latter charge encompasses intentional killing.

Other arresting officers, J Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao, were charged with aiding and abetting murder Wednesday, a felony. An initial autopsy revealed that Floyd’s death was caused by a combination of being restrained, potential intoxicants in his system and underlying health issues, namely heart disease. A second autopsy was performed, and the results showed that Floyd died of asphyxiation.

Why we picked this story

At our morning team huddle, we discuss stories that are “talkers.” People are primed to look for driving forces in the world, ones that we can explain through our collective experience. This is one example.

On June 4, the first of three memorials were held for Floyd. The service, which included a eulogy by the Rev. Al Sharpton, was held at North Central University in Minneapolis. Last week, the U.S. Justice Department announced it has made the federal investigation into Floyd’s death a “top priority.”

President Donald Trump has also weighed in with shock over Floyd’s death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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